Wigan Council trials new tech to save on gritting costs

A Wigan gritter ready for action
A Wigan gritter ready for action

Needless gritting of roads and car parks could soon become a thing of the past thanks to new technology trialled by Wigan Council.

With gritting season soon upon us, teams are having to ensure they are prepared for the potentially treacherous conditions that winter brings.

In a move to ensure roads are given the right treatment at the right time, the council has been testing the use of road surface temperature sensors in recent years.

And plans to undertake a wider “pathfinder” scheme this winter have now been discussed by the council’s confident places scrutiny committee.

The lightweight devices can be attached to most roadside equipment providing real-time road-surface temperature data. Widespread use would mean teams no longer having to rely on weather monitoring stations that cover wider areas.

Previous trials suggest the more accurate figures could help the authority cut down on unnecessary works, making the service more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable.

The pathfinder trial – used on one gritting route initially – will be funded through a £50k from the environment team’s Transforming Through Technology scheme. The results will then be used to determine whether the council moves forward with more widespread use of the technology in future years.

Coun Carl Sweeney, cabinet member for environment, said: “We will continuously look at opportunities to invest in our winter maintenance services because the safety of motorists on our roads is paramount. While officers currently rely on information from local weather stations, the Met Office and their own visual inspections, these sensors could provide teams with more guidance and knowledge.

“Broadly speaking, utilising technology will help us a council make better informed decisions and ensure we are better able to prioritise and plan should we experience severe weather conditions while securing environmental benefits and service efficiency.”

Last winter a record was kept each day noting whether the service was deployed or not. Data collected highlighted how the technology had the potential to improve the decision-making process and identify when gritters needed to attend locations where temperatures would fall below the tipping point of 0C.

Typically, the time to complete the precautionary gritting across the borough’s network is three to four hours, underlining the savings that can be made.